Whether it’s an incoming polar vortex or just an extended cold snap, extreme cold temperatures can chill you to the bone. And as the thermometer outside continues to drop, it’s not just important to stay warm – you need to stay safe, too.
So follow these tips to ensure you and your family stay safe during the harsh winter weather.
Polar Vortex and Extreme Cold Safety Tips
- Only travel if you have to. In extreme cold, you shouldn’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary. Staying inside will reduce your chance of getting frostbite or risking uncertain road conditions. If you do need to leave the house, be sure to brush up on best practices for winter driving safety. If you drive, make sure you have a flashlight with fresh batteries and a full tank of gas. Carry extra blankets, clothes and a well-stocked car emergency kit with food and water in case you get stuck or stranded. Taking public transportation? Keep moving around to stay warm at the stop while you wait.
Dress warmly. If you have to leave the house, wear several layers of loose-fitting clothes. The air trapped between each sweater or coat can retain your body heat and help keep you warm. It also helps to wear clothing that’s made of wool, which can hold in more heat than an item made from cotton. A synthetic fabric like polypropylene can also wick moisture away and hold heat.
- Protect your extremities. Keep your earlobes, fingers, toes and the tip of your nose covered when you go outside. These areas have the highest risk for frostbite if they aren’t properly protected. To keep your fingers warmer, opt for mittens instead of gloves.
Don’t push yourself too hard. There may be a lot of snow to move outside, but only shovel if you have to. That’s because vigorous exercise in cold weather can put extra strain on your heart. Make sure you follow your doctor’s advice on working outdoors, especially if you have high blood pressure or heart disease. Read more tips for how to safely shovel snow.
- Take it easy on ice. If you venture outside, watch out for ice – which can cause you (or others) to slip and fall. Rock salt loses its effectiveness below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, so use ice melt on surfaces like sidewalks, stairs and driveways. You can also spread sand on your walkways to provide a little more traction. If you’re on the move, go slow and take short steps or shuffle for stability. You can also try a slip-on winter traction device over your shoes.
- Know the signs of frozen pipes (and how to stop them). Your pipes are more susceptible to freezing and bursting in extreme cold. This can cause messy (and expensive) water damage to your home. To reduce the chance of damage, let cold water drip from your faucets and open the cabinets below your sinks. Add some extra protection by covering your pipes with insulation. Get more tips in this related story on preventing frozen pipes.
- Watch over babies, pets and the elderly. Babies have a harder time maintaining their body temperature than adults, so it’s best to keep them bundled up and away from extreme cold. It’s more difficult for the elderly to regulate their temperature, too. So check in with your older neighbors and family members to make sure they’re staying warm. And don’t forget about protecting your pets in these frigid temperatures.
Planning is smart. But just like the weather, life is rarely predictable. For whatever’s in store, Erie Insurance is with you on the journey. To learn how we can help protect you and your family, talk to your local ERIE agent.
Posted on 19 January 2020 | 9:00 pm
Laundry is part of life’s weekly grind. But did you know that dryers cause roughly 15,500 home structure fires, 29 deaths, 400 injuries and $192 million in direct property loss each year? What’s more, most dryer fires happen in the winter.
What can cause a dryer fire?
The most common cause of dryer fires is failure to do a thorough cleaning. Because a lint trap is not a foolproof method for catching all the fuzzy stuff from clothes, lint can gradually build up and catch fire in the heating element or exhaust duct.
Further compounding the problem is the fact that many people now install dryers outside of their basements. This typically results in dryer vent pipes being much longer. Those longer vent pipes have a greater likelihood of being twisted and turned to accommodate the structure of the home—and that creates spaces for lint to collect.
What could happen if my dryer catches on fire?
Kevin Sippy, an insurance adjuster in ERIE’s Wisconsin Branch, inspects about five dryer fires every year. One particularly bad one happened when a customer laundered an item containing a type of rubber not meant to be dried at a hot temperature. When she turned the dryer to high, the material combusted and caused a blaze that destroyed $44,000 worth of property.
In another instance, a customer suffered $200,000 of property damage from a fire that started after she took her laundry out of the dryer. That customer washed towels that had been soaked in a sizable amount of sanitizing solution. She then placed the towels, which still had traces of the sanitizing solution, in the dryer. When the towels dried, they ended up spontaneously combusting and causing a fire that burned through an entire floor.
“We literally had to gut the house,” says Sippy, who changed his own laundry habits after that fire. “Now, I never dry anything higher than the low setting—I’d rather take a little longer to dry my clothes than burn my house down.”
9 tips to prevent dryer fires
1. Clean out the lint. “It starts with cleaning out the lint filter every time you use the dryer.” says John Hall, Ph.D., division director of fire Analysis & Research for the National Fire Protection Association. He also advises clearing out the vent pipe to reduce the chance of fire and to maintain the efficiency of the dryer.
2. Install with care. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing the vent pipe. Use a short, straight pipe that’s an adequate distance from the wall. By reducing the bends in the dryer vent pipe, it creates fewer opportunities for lint to gather. If you have to vent your dryer over a long distance, consider investing in a dryer vent fan. These automatic electric devices speed up airflow through the duct every time you turn on your dryer to keep things moving along. A dryer vent fan should be installed by a licensed electrician.
3. Clear out combustibles. Move any flammables like cleaning supplies far away from your dryer. Also regularly sweep out dust in the areas around and underneath your dryer.
4. Opt for a solid metal dryer duct. Research shows that flexible foil or plastic ducts can sag and lead to lint buildup at low points. Metal ducts of any variety don’t sag, and they’re more likely to contain any fires that would start.
5. Read tags. If the care label reads tumble dry low, don’t turn the dryer up to high. Also use caution with certain items like bath mats, padded bras and bibs—they may contain rubber that shouldn’t be exposed to hot temperatures.
6. Exercise extra caution with flammable liquids. Wash clothing stained with volatile chemicals more than once—and definitely opt to line dry over machine dry.
7. Use your clothes to diagnose problems. Clothes that no longer feel dry or that are extra hot to the touch after a normal dry cycle are a telltale sign that something’s wrong. Before doing the next load, check for a plugged vent and clean out any lint.
8. Don’t dry and dash. Turn off your dryer if you need to step out during the laundry cycle.
9.Give the outdoor vent a peek. Make sure that the outdoor vent flap isn’t covered by snow or debris.
This story was originally published in 2013. It was updated with new information on Jan. 13, 2020.
Posted on 15 January 2020 | 9:00 pm
What homebuyers look for in the perfect kitchen has evolved over the years. And as our personal collections of appliances, utensils and ingredients grow, pantry storage has made its way to the top of the list.
Our recent national survey found that a walk-in pantry was the most common feature homeowners regretted not getting in their last home purchase – with just under a third (30%) saying they wish they had one.
Luckily, there’s a cure to pantry envy: adding practical kitchen storage of your very own.
Whether you’re ready to convert a closet or install new shelving, here are some food storage secrets to help put your dream pantry within reach.
How to Create a New Pantry Space
Just because your home lacks a built-in pantry doesn’t mean you have to settle for less storage. With a few handy tricks and a little renovation, even the smallest kitchens can accommodate more pantry space:
Convert closets or nooks. Does your kitchen have a small corner nook or a double-wide closet? Consider ditching the coat rack and replace it with shelves and bins. Relocating your previously stored items to a hall closet could be well worth the extra kitchen storage it frees up.
- Look behind your wall. Creating more kitchen storage can be difficult if you’re tight on space. But your solution for a pantry may be hiding behind your walls. A quick search online will reveal plenty of inspiration for recessed shelving that can be built between your studs. All it takes is cutting out the drywall and framing in some shallow cabinets. Hang a few doors and you’ll have a place to store cans, spices and more – no floor space required.(Of course, if you’re not an experienced DIY-er, this job might be better left to a pro. No one wants to accidentally demo a load-bearing wall, so make sure you know your stuff before you tackle this one.)
Repurpose a bookshelf. Move an old bookcase to the kitchen or buy a cheap one from a second-hand store. Give it a paint job to match your color scheme and customize it to hold your food or small appliances.
- Hang more shelves. When it comes to kitchen design, open shelves are back in style. So why not make your kitchen the walk-in pantry? Add new shelves to your backsplash and walls, and stack them as high as you’d like. Every item will be within reach and you’ll utilize what was once unused space.
How to Upgrade Your Kitchen Storage
Whether you already have the walk-in pantry of your dreams, or are adding new storage with one of the projects above, there are plenty of ways to improve the style and function of your pantry space.
Looking to transform your pantry into the photo-worthy kitchen upgrade you envisioned? Here are a few tips and kitchen storage ideas to get started:
Use the door. The door of a pantry often contains a lot of unused space. Add hooks, racks or pockets to the back of your door to hold anything from kitchen utensils to spices.
Adjust your shelves. Shelves are typically spaced uniformly. But the items you’re storing aren’t all the same size. Try varying the distance between your shelves so items can be organized based on how much space they take up.
Install pull-out shelves. Deep shelves can make it hard to reach items in your pantry or cabinet. Replacing them with pull-out shelves can help you avoid going elbow-deep when searching for ingredients.
Think in a U-shape. The key to a walk-in pantry is visibility. Complete the walk-in feel and install shelves in a U-shape so you can turn and access everything from the center.
Add lighting. Lights will make frequent trips to the cabinet easier on the eyes. Install a brighter bulb in your walk-in pantry or attach battery-operated lights to your shelving to help you find what you’re looking for.
- Think in layers. How you organize your food is just as important as the shelves you put it on. Place small items in front and large items in the back. This way, items won’t get lost behind each other.
- Utilize technology. Whether you’re looking for advice or inspiration, there’s no shortage of websites and mobile apps to help. Use a kitchen design tool to plan out your space, and apps like Photo Measures or iHandy Carpenter for measurements. For more DIY ideas, check out YouTube or Pinterest.
Take care of your project
Whether you add some shelves or take on a complete kitchen renovation, your project is unique to you. At Erie Insurance, our policies are designed to protect what matters most. You do you, and we’ll take it from there.
Posted on 13 January 2020 | 9:00 pm
Houseplants offer a quick, easy way to add a splash of color to your home decor. And they’ve been proven to help purify the air inside your house, too. But have you ever bought a beautiful plant from a local greenhouse, only to watch it shrivel up a few weeks later?
If so, you know there’s a lot more to consider than how a flower, cactus or palm might look in your house. For a plant to grow and thrive in your home, it needs to be a good match for your space.
Here are some things to consider when shopping for your next houseplant:
Space: If you live in a small apartment or have low ceilings, a large plant like a palm might not be your best option. Experts recommend you allow at least 6 inches of breathing room around your houseplants. So think twice before squeezing a plant between two pieces of furniture.
Size: Before choosing a plant, consider where it’s going to live in your home. Plants less than 2 feet tall are ideal for spaces like a windowsill or table, while taller plants work best on your floor.
- Lighting: Most houseplants need natural light to grow. But the type of light (direct, indirect or low) will vary by species. For best results, match your plant’s lighting needs with a room in your home that supplies the correct amount of light. And consider placing plants in rooms facing south, east or west in your home.
- Temperature: Some plants are more sensitive to temperature changes than others. Consistent temperatures during spring and summer months make it an ideal time for plants to be nurtured. But fall and winter can bring cold snaps that will damage plants – especially in areas that are not always heated, like porches and sunrooms.
Style: Allow the plants you buy to reflect your decorating taste. There are plenty of options available, from plants producing lush greenery to bright flowers. And you can add more of your own personal style with a ceramic or copper pot.
- Pets and children: Be aware that some plants, like lilies and ivy, can be toxic if touched or eaten. Exposure could cause your pets to become seriously ill or irritate your child’s skin.
Find the Perfect Fit
Now that you know the basics of choosing the perfect houseplant, here are some you may want to consider for your space:
- Plants that don’t need much light: Looking for a houseplant to grow in a basement or windowless room? Consider plants like the pothos, heart-leaf philodendrons, arrowhead vines, cast iron plants and dieffenbachia – all of which can grow in low light conditions.
Plants that don’t need much water: Need a hearty plant that can withstand a little neglect? No judgement. Good choices include succulents, ZZ plants, snake plants or Chinese evergreens.
Plants that can help with dry skin: Tired of dry skin in the winter months? Consider a natural alternative to expensive creams and lotions. Spider plants, rubber plants, peace lilies and English ivy can all help balance moisture in the air.
- Plants that add a splash of color: Mosaic plants, dragon trees and polka dot plants can help you break away from plain-old green.
If you’re looking for expert advice on protecting your plants, talk to a florist or a professional at your local garden center. And if you have any questions about protecting your home, contact yourlocal Erie Insurance agent. Our agents know the ins and outs of homeowners insurance and can help you find the right coverage.
Posted on 5 January 2020 | 9:00 pm
As the year winds down, people will be making New Year’s resolutions—and lots of them. This year, many Americans will make a New Year’s resolution to get fit, stop smoking, learn French, stress less and onward and so on.
Anyone who has witnessed a crowded January gym slow to a trickle by February knows that many resolutions just don’t stick. Some studies have reported that as few as 8 percent of people actually succeed in keeping their resolution.
So, how can you be among the few who see their promise through? Here are a few ideas to make it go right.
Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution
Make a mini resolution. Who says you have to run a marathon or model your home after Martha Stewart’s? There’s nothing wrong with making less ambitious, but more achievable, goals like running a 5K or organizing your most out-of-control closet.
Be specific. Lots of people fail because they make resolutions that are too general or too difficult to measure. Examples include “get healthy” or “spend more time with my spouse.” Instead, vow to “Walk an extra 20 minutes every day” or “Schedule a weekly date night with my spouse.”
Related: 5 Quick Ways to Make Your Home Safer This Year
Plan, plan, plan. Maybe you have a big goal like “start a business.” If so, you’ll have more success if you plot out the many steps it takes to make it a reality. Buy a goal-setting journal or download an app to break down your plan by month, week and day. (And if you do want to start that business this year, learn more about business insurance – it’s essential for protecting your investment of time and money.)
Related: A Simple Guide to Business Insurance for Startups and New Businesses
Take it public. Some people feel that they’re more likely to keep a New Year’s resolution when they tell others. Still, others prefer to keep it private – and that’s OK! If you’ve been keeping your resolution to yourself the past few years but haven’t seen results… consider giving this strategy a try.
Find a buddy. A friend who shares your New Year’s resolutions can provide a massive dose of motivation.
More Advice for the New Year
Want to take a different approach? Then you might consider some unconventional methods to your resolution.
Consider a disincentive. On Stickk.com, you can have your credit card charged each time you fall short of your goal. You can direct the money to go anywhere — but you might consider sending it to an organization you detest. (Two ideas include a political party you’d never support or a university that’s the arch rival of the one you attended.)
- Make a resolution to enjoy and protect what you already have. Perhaps you recently invested in something big, like a new home or a renovation project. If so, take the time to enjoy what you already have before thinking ahead to the next thing you need or want.
That’s where it helps to have the right insurance. After all, insurance is designed to protect the things you’ve worked hard to achieve and that matter most to you.
At Erie Insurance, we have a genuine enthusiasm for our customer’s successes. Whether you’re renovating your home, starting a family or changing direction in life, we’re eager to offer our encouragement and expertise.
See what makes our home insurance different or find a local ERIE agent in your neighborhood who can give you a customized quote.
This story was originally published in 2013. It was updated with new information on Jan. 2, 2020.
Posted on 1 January 2020 | 9:00 pm